MacArthur Fellow, Ken Vandermark
Born September 22, 1964, Warwick, Rhode Island; resides Chicago,Illinois.
Ken Vandermark is a composer, improviser, tenor sax and clarinet
player who is gaining recognition as one of America's most promising
young musicians. His music draws on a range of traditions and styles,
including jazz, European classical and folk musics, reggae, rock,
and African forms. Vandermark leads and performs with more than a
dozen ensembles and has recorded over forty compact discs.
Vandermark's music draws on a range of traditions and styles. Some of
Vandermark's performances are entirely improvised. Others include his
signature composition style, featuring tightly wound chromatic and
counterpunctal figures played in unison by horns that then release
into long solos. While Vandermark's recent work, exemplified in his
award-winning 1998 recording Target or Flag, continues his
interest in high-energy playing, it also includes a timbral range
and melodic coherence new to his writing. The wall of sound that
characterizes his early work is now one device among many.
Vandermark's solos vary from aggressive split-tones and partials,
to shimmering eighth-note phrases, to plaintive long tones. Some
pieces seem almost like baroque chamber music, others like heavy
Vandermark attended McGill University (1982-86). He first rose to
attention in the NRG Ensemble (1989-96) and subsequently through
his own ensembles, including the DKV Trio, Witches and Devils, the
Vandermark 5, the Joe Harriot Project, and Steam. Vandermark won the
Cadence magazine poll in 1998 for best artist and best recording,
placing ahead of MacArthur Fellows Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton.
He was a finalist for the 1998 Herb Alpert Fellowship.